The northern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines differs greatly from the southern part, both culturally and geographically (Figure 1). Its mountains host diverse indigenous cultures and the Ifugao culture is one among them. The word “Ifugao” originally meant people from the mountains, and is now also the name of their culture and their province. It is the home to mainly three ethnic groups, the Tuwali, the Ilocano, and the Ayangan who speak different dialects. Unlike the lowland areas, Ifugao was not conquered by the Spanish regime in the 16th century and was only accessed by outsiders after the American occupation of the Phillippines in 1898. Over this long independent time, the Ifugaos cultivated their indigenous culture, which makes them unique and proud today.
Figure 1: Ifugao province in the Luzon Island, the Philippines (Source: Google Earth)
A big event in contemporary history for the Ifugaos was the designation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site (Rössler, 2006) and later as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Among the total 11 municipalities in Ifugao, rice terraces in the four municipalities of Banaue, Hungduan, Kiangan, and Mayoyao were thus designated. My research was done in these four municipalities, composing 32.35% of the total Ifugao population (Philippine Statistics Authority, 2015) and 33.85% of the area with a focus on the municipal centers and the villages where the designated rice terraces are located (Figure 2). All on-site research activities were conducted from June 27 to August 19, 2016.
Figure 2: Centers of researched Municipalities and Ifugao State University in the map of Ifugao (Source: Google Earth)
Since its first encounter with the Spanish, the Ifugao culture has been of interest to anthropologists. But it is not until recently, under multiple social changes, such as the increasing standard of living and education level, that the traditional culture has been experiencing dramatic changes. While many previous researches were conducted on such changes and the conservation of the original culture (Albano and Takeda, 2014; Dulay, 2015; Madangeng, 2015; Respicio, 2013), few focused on people’s perception (Dizon et al., 2012; Joshi et al., 2000; Tilliger et al., 2015). And to my knowledge, there has not been any research that uses qualitative methods to examine and analyze the complexity of people’s perceived reasons for the cultural changes and their perceptions of them.
In this research I am trying to answer two questions: 1) What is of value in the Ifugao culture? 2) If there is something of value, how should it be conserved? I looked for answers of these questions by inquiring about the interviewees’ perceptions on various cultural topics. The reason for focusing on the perceptions of cultural changes is that human factors of those changes (such as preferential change) may be revealed, without hypothesizing that all cultural changes are undesirable. And by reporting the findings in a qualitative fashion, these complex perceptions can be represented in order to foster sound conservation measures. To that end, I used three research methods:
1) Semi-structured interviews, with usually a single individual but up to four participants, were conducted, with a typical length of approximately 45 minutes. The interviews were recorded and later transcribed. Quotes from the inteviews were then coded using NVivo software. Afterwards, I analyzed them by comparing coded quotes on the same topic. A selection of quotes that reflect a typical idea were then collected and reported. Two interviewees were also lent a digital camera to take photos of what they found of interest or importance to their life.
2) Seventeen young students (IL) (above 18 years old) from the Ifugao State University participated at a focus group activity on the “comparison between the ideal life of the young and elder generations.” They were asked to first draw a picture of their ideal life. And later, they asked their grandparents about their ideal life and also drew a picture of it. After comparing the grandparents’ ideal life with their’s, the young participants wrote down their thoughts. The drawings were analyzed based on their components and the writings of the participants’ thoughts were analyzed in the same way as the transcripts of the interviews.
3) Field observations in the form of photography, video and field notes were taken for analysis. Other than the time spent on interviews, events such as an engagement, a wake ceremony, and festivals were observed. The villages and surrounding terraces were also visited and photographed. The field notes were usually immediately written onsite or later in the evening.
Moreover, in order to inquire about the different perceptions from people in different social roles, the research participants included major stakeholders of the Ifugao culture, including rice farmers (RF), business workers (BW), government officials and workers (GW), knowledge experts (KE), young people (YP) and visitors (VI). A random number code was given to each of the interviewees. The code following the quotes signifies the source of the interview.
In total, I conducted 60 interviews with 70 interviewees. These interviwees were recruited by local research assistants based on their representativenss of the group of people sharing their background, influence, and knowledge of the subject. Among them, 36 were male and 34 were female. Their specific age was not noted but by judging from appearance, there were 26 interviewees younger than 30 years old and 44 older than 30 years of age. Twenty of them were working as rice farmers, 25 in public services, 26 in business and 11 tourists,. Among all interviewees 28 (40%) were from Banaue, 16 (22.86%) from Hungduan, 14 (20%) from Kiangan, 10 (14.29%) from Mayoyao, and 2 (2.86%) from other municipalities.
This thesis covers various topics about the Ifugao society, from agriculture to tourism and it is difficult to divide chapters and sections because many aspects of the Ifugao society are interconnected. Generally, the first part of the thesis, from Chapter Two to Chapter Six, is on the findings. The data like direct quotes from the interviews, photos and field notes were used.
Chapter Two is on Ifugao agriculture where aspects of Ifugao agriculture are introduced and the relevant changes and people’ perceptions of these changes are discussed. Readers will find that Ifugao agriculture had a close connection with the Ifugao religion and thus in chapter three, the traditional Ifugao religion and the relatively new Christianity are analyzed to compare their effects on society. While rice terraces are connected to Ifugao agriculture, the physical being of them to Ifugaos has more significance than producing food. In chapter four, changes that take place in the rice terraces are analyzed and some proposed measures are discussed based on interviewees’ perceptions of the changes. Tourism, a new but crucial industry for Ifugao, also plays a role in reshaping the traditional society now. How local people and tourists think of each other and the new Ifugao they are making together can be found in chapter five with a highlight on a festival in Hungduan. From agriculture to tourism, many factors are altering the lifestyle of Ifugaos. Young people live in houses and wear clothes different from their parents and grandparents. In chapter six, such changes in Ifugaos’ lifestyle are discussed. From chapter two to six, I try to be objective by focusing primarily on reporting the responses from the interviewees, but in chapter seven, I share my thoughts on the current global development model. And in contrast to that, I explain the reason why some of the interviewees and I commonly found Ifugao values to be of value in the Ifugao culture. The values, here, in defines as a series of principles that guides people in their actions and decision making. In the last chapter, I discuss the primary measures proposed by interviewees to conserve the Ifugao culture and suggest conserving the culture through the conservation of Ifugao values.
Again, the purpose of this thesis is not to describe detailed aspects of the Ifugao culture but to try to find from people’s perceptions what is of value in the culture, and find ways to conserve it. At the end of some interviews, I asked the interviewees how they thought of the intierview and its topic. One reply was that “sometimes we Ifugao people, no one is interested in how you feel…there is no time we ask our coworkers or neighbors about how they feel towards our rice terraces” (RF8). I hope that this research can provide information for the Ifugaos on conservation of their culture and initiate discussion from the inside, and at the same time provoke reflections by the non-Ifugao people on our life and the current trend of global development that we are shaping.
 Because of this history, the songs popularly played in Ifugao today are still American country music.
 The total population is 202,802. (Retrieved 2 December 2016. ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ifugao#Administrative_divisions)
 The evaluation is conducted by combining the internal ideas of Ifugaos and also my external thoughts from the global scale.
 All interviews were conducted in English. Six interviews where the interviewees did not speak English were assisted with the translation from the research assistants. For interview questions, please refer to appendix C.